Granit Xhaka has defended himself after a topsy-turvy first season in the Premier League.
The Swiss international, 24, has stated this current campaign is one which has had its ‘ups and downs’, which is normal for every player settling into new surroundings.
Xhaka’s deflected strike against United was his first league goal since September. Unsurprisingly, critics have been analysing his performances with intensity given Arsenal’s shortcomings in 2017.
Since Wenger’s comments about improving his tackling technique in January, Xhaka has been booked on eight occasions across all competitions. This may seem like poor discipline from a big-money signing but on many instances, they’ve been harsh bookings and partly due to his reputation.
“It’s a season that has had ups and downs, but that’s normal in your first season” Xhaka said. “I think that belongs in football.
“For me, football is pretty much the same everywhere, the ball is round. Maybe tactically things are different than at other clubs I’ve played for.”
Xhaka’s lack of speed has been highlighted as a key reason why he commits so many late challenges. Having been sent off against Swansea and Burnley, he has already missed five league fixtures this term through suspension and media have been quick to brand him a flop.
“In football you get criticised if you are sent off. It’s my style of play and nobody can make me change that. Even if I get another red card, then that happens.
“You become cleverer. Maybe look more and since my last red card, I think things have improved.”
Xhaka limped off in the latter stages of Sunday’s 2-0 victory after a recurrence of the ankle injury which saw him substituted against Tottenham.
He’ll be hoping to feature against Southampton tomorrow, if passed fit and has maintained aspirations for an unlikely top-four finish this season.
“This is a phase where we have to win every game, which we know. We have four games left that we need to approach in the same way [as Sunday’s win].
“We always have hope. Hope dies last. It’s up to us, we need some luck along the way, but if we win the next four games, I’m convinced that we can do it.”